BYOD: What is It Good For?

2 Jan 2013

BYOD is a term that entered the telecom vernacular in 2012. Unlike SIP or DTMF, it's an acronym that we generally understand - at least in terms of abbreviation. It stands for Bring Your Own Device, yet what it means is anyone's guess. Opinions on meaning and if it is even a good thing, vary widely.

What does BYOD mean? At the simplest level, it means employees equip themselves with a mobile smart device rather than the more traditional role of the employer providing one. First off, I don't think there was a clear traditional model. Secondly, BYOD is even less clear.

For example, does BYOD mean that employees can bring ANY mobile device, or are they limited to a menu of approved devices? If it's a menu, does it include all major operating systems or just some? Can employees select any carrier or are they limited to a shortlist of approved service providers? If the phone comes with a term obligation, who pays the termination fee if it becomes necessary? Who owns the phone number? Does the employer have the right to load management/security software on the device? If a portion of the monthly service charge is to be reimbursed, who determines acceptable rates?

Unfortunately, none of those questions are addressed by the term BYOD. The point is that BYOD isn't a solution, but rather a starting point. Each and every implementation requires the employer to create a policy that addresses all of these and additional questions. The problem is many believe it is a destination.

A policy of BYOD is meaningless. At worst, it means staff are on their own to interpret its meaning, and at best it means employers are paying more for mobile services (via reimbursement expenses) with reduced purchasing power.

Then comes the issues of usage and data. Are employees allowed to make business calls from their native BYOD device, or are they obligated to use a UC client? Is a UC client required or optional in a BYOD environment? UC enables employers to shield employees behind a corporate number, but is that lost with BYOD? Is information like call logs or contacts corporate information or personal information? Does the employee have an obligation to secure corporate information (password type), and does the employer have a right to view logs or access the device? If the device gets lost, does the employer have the right to remotely delete content? Does the employer have the right to search or seize this personal device that it is paying for?

BYOD is a Pandora's box of issues. Many organizations already had policies that allowed employees to use their own devices, but smartphones changed the game. Too many corporations were solving these issues with corporate-owned devices from RIM, but the world experienced iPhone and Android frenzy. The natives revolted with BYOD. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

BYOD in its current form will not last. It is too chaotic and the liabilities are too great. The concept of employees funding their own devices is here to stay. What will change are the attitudes about how those devices can be used and controlled. I suspect the next big wave will be around virtualized mobile clients that keep data off the local devices.

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